The Phillies have been around for 138 years. They were the first American pro sports franchise to lose 10,000 games. Grown men still cry about the time the club blew a National League Championship in the final days of the season fifty freaking six years ago. They are one of just two teams to lose a World Series on a walk-off home run.
The point is: This franchise has had some dark days.
Now you can add this to the list:
The Phillies were swept in a doubleheader by the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday.
Hey, teams get swept, right?
Not like this.
On a day that was nothing short of embarrassing for anyone who has anything to do with the Phillies' baseball fortunes, or anyone who cares about them, the club lost twice to the Blue Jays. The final scores were 3-2 and 9-8.
It wasn't so much that the Phillies lost both games. Sweeps happen. It was how they lost them. They blew a 2-0 lead in the first game and a 7-0 lead in the second game. They made terrible misplays in the field, some that were ruled errors, some that were not, at crucial times in both games. The offense disappeared for stretches in both games. And the bullpen ... Well, it's a good thing that Canadian COVID-19 protocols mandated that the game be played in Buffalo, New York because the Phillies' bullpen might not have been allowed back through customs if all this ugliness had taken place in Toronto.
"It's frustrating, really frustrating," manager Joe Girardi said. "We had a chance to win two games. We lost leads in both games late and those are frustrating."
The sweep dropped the Phils to 9-12. More than one-third of the 60-game season is gone as the Phils head to Atlanta for three with the NL East-leading Braves. At the moment, it's very difficult to envision the Phillies overtaking the Braves or whoever else is going to win this division. There are reasons to like the Phillies' starting pitching and reasons to like the offense, but the bullpen ... It was projected to be a problem entering the season and, so far, is a bigger problem than expected.
It's probably a good time to remind folks that Girardi, in his first season as Phillies skipper, is a supremely competent manager.
Ditto for first-year pitching coach Bryan Price.
But the bullpen that they've been asked to win games with is absurd.
Through 21 games, the Phillies' bullpen has an 8.07 ERA, worst in baseball.
The bullpen allowed seven runs in 3⅔ innings over two games Thursday. Only three of the runs were earned because the defense couldn't make plays in the sixth inning of the second game — there was also a late misplay in Game 1 — but you get the point. Sometimes a bullpen has to pitch over fielding mistakes, get a big out, but this unit just can't do that.
Inconsistent veteran Tommy Hunter let a one-run lead get away late in the first game and waiver-claim Deolis Guerra gave it up in the seventh inning as the Jays won a walk-off special.
Starter Vince Velasquez began to fritter away a seven-run lead in the first inning of the second game and that disturbing exercise continued in the sixth inning of the second game. Eventually, the bullpen and the defense took care of the rest and that breezy 7-0 first-inning lead became a loss.
No, not him.
This can't be easy for Girardi. As a player and a manager, he came from an organization — the Yankees — that goes out and fixes problems.
But who knows if this bullpen will get fixed. The Phillies are already carrying a huge payroll and they are right against the luxury-tax threshold. The Phillies did just about nothing — remember, Hunter was a holdover — to address their bullpen over the winter and they're paying a huge price for that decision now.
After the painful sweep, Girardi was asked all the relevant questions.
Is GM Matt Klentak looking to make a deal before the trade deadline at the end of the month? Does he think he needs help in the bullpen? Does he want it?
"Well, that's Matt's job and people above me," Girardi said. "So my job is to manage the players that they give me and to get the best out of them. So, I will continue to try to do that. You know, everyone talks about trades during the trade deadline and it always takes two to tango. So I'll let them handle that and I'll manage the guys they give me."
Girardi was pressed. Does he need bullpen help beyond the cast of young, unproven guys and castoffs from other teams that have been sent his way and passed off as upgrades?
"We have to get it done with the guys that we have right now," Girardi said. "That's the bottom line. Because that's who's in the clubhouse."
For the bullpen, the most painful moment of the day Thursday — both physically and symbolically — came when Jose Alvarez, the Phillies' best most dependable reliever, took a 105-mph line drive in the ol' fruit bowl. He went down in excruciating pain and had to be carted from the field.
Alvarez might miss a few days, but he will be OK.
The rest of the bullpen?
There are 39 games remaining in the season and 11 days remaining before the trade deadline.
Matt Klentak is on the clock.